Cannon Center for the Performing Arts

Memphis, Tennessee

Project Size:

136,000 square feetSeating capacity: 2000 seats

Project Status:

Completed 2002


Arts + Culture, Civic Design, Interior Design

Associate Architect:

Williamson Haizlip & Pounders Architects/Pickering Firm, Inc.

Located on the east bank of the Mississippi River and the edge of downtown Memphis, the Cannon Center mediates the divide between urban and river environments. Its varied massing and materiality, as well as distinctive geometry, establish the facility’s civic presence as a recognizable, yet complimentary part of the Memphis skyline.

The performance hall is conceived around the classic horseshoe configuration reminiscent of a European opera house. A parterre level and two balcony levels form graceful curves, clad in akacio wood, that engage the proscenium frame—embellishing connection between performer and audience through a unified expression of form and materiality. Flexible forestage configurations and variable acoustic systems provide extensive flexibility to accommodate a wide range of performance events, from symphony orchestra to opera, ballet and popular music concerts.

Within the lobby, the auditorium chamber turns its warm sheath of wood paneling outward in metaphorical presence of a precious musical instrument, around which theater circulation is organized. Sculptural stairways, art installations and overlooks provide focal points that further animate the experience. Upper lobby cantilevers extend beyond the building edge, opening to more dramatic views of the Mississippi.